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Global warming by two degrees makes earth even more uninhabitable than previously thought

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Global warming by two degrees makes earth even more uninhabitable than previously thought

The study ‘Quantifying the human cost of global warming’, conducted by scientists from the University of Exeter in the UK and Nanjing University in China, warns the world that by the end of the century some two billion people will be under dangerous heat conditions will survive if climate policy stays on its current course. These numbers would equate to 23% of the projected world population. The research results were published in the journal “Nature Sustainability”.

Women, children, the elderly and workers in the Global South are particularly affected

60 million people are already exposed to extreme heat conditions. The World Health Organization is certain that extreme heat can and will lead to a large number of diseases and even death in the future. The causes of death could therefore be heat stroke and hyperthermia. Temperature extremes would also exacerbate chronic diseases and have indirect impacts on disease transmission, air quality and critical infrastructure. Elderly people, infants and children, pregnant women, people who work outdoors, people who work physically, athletes and poor people are among the risk groups.

Comparing countries, people living in India, Sudan and Niger would be severely affected by just 1.5 degrees of warming. But countries like the Philippines, Pakistan and Nigeria could also expect serious consequences very soon. The Philippines is already experiencing natural disasters such as typhoons and floods, while rising sea levels are threatening coastal areas. Pakistan is grappling with heat waves and water shortages that are affecting agriculture, and retreating glaciers in the Himalayas are threatening water supplies. Nigeria suffers from droughts, floods and extreme weather, affecting agriculture, food security and infrastructure.

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Life in New York no more valuable than in Bangladesh

The researchers from the University of Exeter and Nanjing University emphasize that their study is unique because they did not model the effects of climate change “like most others in just economic terms, but also in human terms”. Ashish Ghadiali, a climate activist and co-author of the study, fittingly told DW, “This inevitably skews value away from human lives towards centers of wealth.” He adds that models that focus on the economy, would value life in upstate New York more than life in Bangladesh.

He also criticizes that many researchers have prioritized current populations over future populations, with inequality related to global warming being both global and intergenerational. “It essentially values ​​my life more than my children’s lives and certainly more than my grandchildren’s lives,” he says.

Chief Heat Officer for managing temperature rises

In order to systematically combat global warming, more and more cities around the world are introducing the new position of “Chief Heat Officer”. The whole thing should help to better deal with the inevitable temperature increases. One of them is Cristina Huidobro, who took on this role for the Chilean capital Santiago in 2022, following a triple strategy of preparation, awareness and adaptation.

Huidobro suggests categorizing heatwaves similar to other natural disasters, or setting an alert threshold to evoke a “specific urban response”. She stressed to DW that raising awareness of the dangers of heat is a critical component of this task.

Green against the heat

Another key aspect is adapting cities to the new reality of high temperatures, particularly by creating more green spaces within the city. In this context, Santiago has recently started an urban reforestation project, planting 30,000 trees across the city and developing strategies to consider the trees as an integral part of the urban infrastructure.

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“We plant trees in busy streets, such as the city’s main streets, where there is a lot of concrete. It requires digging holes and conducting extensive construction work. The whole idea is to plant the shade that we can use for the next 20 or 30 years,” explains Huidobro.

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